The Yeshua in Context book, audiobook, and eBook is due for release in August 2010. I plan to publish a sourcebook as well with lists, charts, and further resources for study. In this podcast, I set up the problems in Mark 7 and present a few clues toward a better reading of the story. In the book I will present a holistic reading of the story.
In Mark 7 we have a story about another dispute between Yeshua and those in Israel who saw themselves as the Torah teachers of the future. In Yeshua’s time, the Pharisees were a small movement and, in spite of many studies which have failed to grasp this, their influence was not yet broad over the Jewish communities in Israel or the diaspora. The days of rabbinic dominance in Judaism would not come for centuries.
No matter how we read the story in Mark 7 we’re bound to run into problems. We will encounter problems of our modern context, of centuries of Christian readings, of historical understanding, of coherence, of translation, of theology, and not least of spirituality.
In terms of our modern context, we are prone to think in terms of Judaism and Christianity in recent history. We are handicapped by the pervasive idea of many centuries that Judaism and Christianity are mutually exclusive. It is all too easy to read Yeshua as the representative of Christianity which is superseding Judaism. There could also be a Jewish reading of the story, a non-messianic reading, which equally misses the point. We will attempt a reading that reflects Judaism in Yeshua’s time and at the same time takes seriously his messianic claims.
A problem less often considered is that centuries of Christian readings have ignored a crucial fact of the story. Yeshua did practice ritual handwashing. We conclude this because his questioners ask why “some of his disciples” ate with unwashed hands. It seems Yeshua did not. This is one of several factors in the story that undercuts any reading which finds Jewish traditions to be contradictory to Yeshua’s message.
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